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Social Media Faces Lawsuits From Schools Over Mental Health Effects



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SEATTLE, Wash. – The big U.S. social media firms, like the cigarette, oil, gun, opioid, and vape businesses before them, are now facing lawsuits launched by public agencies seeking to hold them accountable for a massive societal problem – in this case, the mental health crisis among youngsters.

However, the new cases — one filed by a public school district in Seattle last week, another by a suburban district on Monday, and almost definitely more to follow — face an uncertain legal path.

Next month, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on how federal law protects the computer industry from such claims when social media algorithms push potentially dangerous information.

Even if the Supreme Court grants permission for lawsuits like Seattle’s, the district faces difficulty showing the industry’s liability.

And the tech industry says there are many ways in which the effects of social media on teens’ mental health are different from, say, how big pharma promotes opioid addiction.

social media

There Are Many Ways Social Media Effects Teens

“The fundamental premise is that the tech business is to blame for teens’ emotional state because they recommended content that has caused emotional injury,” vice president of tech industry trade organization NetChoice, said. “It would be ludicrous to sue Barnes & Noble because a staff member recommended a book that caused emotional harm or upset a youngster.” But that is precisely what this lawsuit does.”

Seattle Public Schools sued the digital titans behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat on Friday, arguing they had created a public nuisance by marketing to youngsters. The Kent School District in the Seattle suburbs followed suit on Monday.

The districts blame the companies for mental health and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying, making it making difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring more mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional teacher media

Unprecidented Life Challenges

“Young people everywhere — face unprecedented learning and life challenges that are exacerbated by the negative effects of increased screen time, potentially addictive social media properties,” Seattle Superintendent Brent Jones said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “We hope this action will help reverse this trend for our students.”

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects online businesses from being held responsible for what other people post on their platforms. But the complaints say that the rule, which was made before there were any social media platforms, doesn’t protect the tech giants in this case because their algorithms favor harmful information.

This is also the issue in Gonzalez v. Google, YouTube’s parent firm, which the Supreme Court will hear on February 21. In another instance, the family of an American lady slain in an Islamic State group attack in Paris in 2015 claims that YouTube’s algorithms helped the terror group recruit.

If the Supreme Court rules that digital corporations can be held accountable in such cases, school districts will still have to prove that social media was to blame. Seattle’s lawsuit says that between 2009 and 2019, the number of students who said they felt “so unhappy or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row” that they stopped doing some of their usual activities rose by 30%.

However, Szabo noted that Seattle’s graduation rates have been rising since 2019 when many youngsters relied on social media to stay in touch with their pals during the pandemic. He said that the number of people who graduate from high school would be going up if social media were so bad for the district’s educational efforts.

“The complaint focuses solely on how social media damages children, and there may be evidence of that,” said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. “However, there is a lot of evidence that social media improves teenagers and other children. We don’t know what the distress rate would be like if social media didn’t exist. The distress rate might probably be higher rather than lower.”

social media

Company’s Care About The Safety Of Its Users

The companies have said that they care about the safety of their users, especially children. They have tools that make it easier for parents to know who their children are talking to. They have also made it easier for people to find mental health resources on social media, like the new 988 crisis hotline. They have also made it easier to check a user’s age and set limits on how much time they can spend on their devices.

“When teens join Instagram, we immediately switch their profiles to private, and we send reminders encouraging them to take regular breaks,” Meta‘s global head of safety, said “We do not allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders, and we identify over 99% of the content we remove or take action on before it is reported to us.”

Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, released internal studies in 2021 that showed the company knew Instagram was bad for kids because it hurt their body image and made eating disorders and suicidal thoughts worse. She claimed the platform put profits ahead of safety and concealed its research from investors and the general public.

Josh Golin, the executive director of Fairplay, an organization that protects children from commercialization and marketing, says that even if social media helps some students, it doesn’t make up for the huge harm it does to many others.

“The mental health expenses to students are astronomical, as is the amount of time schools have to spend monitoring and responding to social media drama,” Golin added. “It is ludicrous that schools are liable for the devastation created by these social media sites to young people. Nobody is witnessing the kinds of cumulative effects that social media is having on school districts.”

Both claims were filed in the United States District Court, but they are based on state public nuisance law – a wide, ill-defined legal notion with origins dating back to 13th century England. In Washington, a public nuisance is “any illegal act and every failure to do a duty” that “annoys, hurts, or threatens the safety, health, comfort, or rest of a large number of people.”

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Tabacco Industries Under Constant Fire

Most notably, public nuisance allegations aided the tobacco industry in reaching a $246 billion, 25-year settlement with the states in 1998. However, state, city, county, and tribal governments have used public nuisance legislation to hold oil firms accountable for climate change, the gun business for gun violence, the pharmaceutical sector for the opioid crisis, and vaping companies like Juul accountable for teen vaping.

The majority of the litigation is still continuing. Juul Labs agreed to resolve thousands of lawsuits, including 1,400 from school districts, towns, and counties, for an estimated $1.2 billion last month.

The Seattle lawsuit could lead to many changes, raising questions about whether it is right to solve big social problems in court instead of through laws. However, the school system faces little risk because the complaint was brought on a contingency basis, which means the company is only paid if the action is successful.

Jolina Cuaresma, senior counsel for privacy and technology policy at Common Sense Media, which works to make media safer for children, said she was pleased to see a school district file a public nuisance lawsuit against internet corporations.

“People have grown impatient of waiting for Congress to act,” she remarked.



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PayPal To Cut 2,000 Jobs In Latest Tech Company Cost-Cutting




(SAN JOSE, Calif.) — PayPal said Tuesday that it will cut about 7% of its total workforce, or about 2,000 full-time employees, as it deals with what it calls a “challenging macroeconomic environment.”

PayPal said the cuts would be phased in over several weeks, with some organizations suffering more than others. The company did not elaborate. The is the parent company of several brands, including Venmo, Xoom, and Honey.

The San Jose, California-based company is the latest in the technology sector to reduce its workforce. Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce alone announced tens of thousands of layoffs in January.


Paypal Is Resizing Its Cost Structure

Last summer, activist investor Elliott Management purchased a $2 billion stake in stock, which announced a “information-sharing agreement” with Elliott “to continue collaboration across a range of value-creation opportunities.”

“Over the past year, we made significant progress in strengthening and reshaping our company to address the challenging macroeconomic environment while continuing to invest to meet the needs of our customers,” PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have made significant progress in right-sizing our cost structure and focusing our resources on our core strategic priorities, but there is still work to be done.”

PayPal Holdings Inc. is set to report quarterly results on February 9.

The company’s stock is down about 53% in the last year. They gained 2.3% to close at $81.49 on Tuesday.



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Boeing Bids Farewell To An Icon, Delivers Last 747 Jumbo Jet




SEATTLE, Wash. — On Tuesday, Boeing said goodbye to an icon by delivering its final 747 jumbo jets in front of thousands of workers who helped build the planes over the past 55 years.

The giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft since its first flight in 1969. It transformed travel by connecting previously unconnected international cities and democratizing passenger flight.

However, over the last 15 years, Boeing and its European rival Airbus have introduced more profitable and fuel-efficient widebody planes with only two engines to maintain, as opposed to the 747′s four. The final plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in Washington state’s Puget Sound region.

Thousands of workers joined Boeing and other industry executives from around the world — as well as actor and pilot John Travolta, who has flown 747s — Tuesday for a ceremony Boeing marking the delivery of the last 747 to cargo carrier Atlas Air at the company’s massive factory north of Seattle.

“If you love this business, you’ve been dreading this moment,” said Richard Aboulafia, a longtime aviation analyst. “Nobody wants a four-engine airliner anymore, but that doesn’t diminish the aircraft’s enormous contribution to the development of the industry or its remarkable legacy.”


More Than 50,000 Boeing Employees Worked On The Contract

After losing a massive military transport contract, the C-5A, Boeing set out to build the 747. The plan was to use the new engines developed for the transport — high-bypass turbofan engines that burned less fuel by passing air around the engine core, allowing for a longer flight range — for a newly imagined civilian aircraft.

More than 50,000 Boeing employees worked for less than 16 months to build the first 747, a Herculean effort that earned them the moniker “The Incredibles.” The construction of a massive factory in Everett, north of Seattle, required the construction of the world’s largest building by volume. The factory had yet to be finished when the first planes were completed.

Desi Evans, 92, was among those in attendance. He joined Boeing in 1957 at its factory in Renton, south of Seattle, and worked for the company for 38 years before retiring. His boss informed him in 1967 that he would join the 747 programs in Everett the following morning.

“They told me to wear rubber boots, a hard hat, and warm clothing because it’s a sea of mud,” Evans recalled. “And they were preparing for the factory’s construction.”


State Of The Art Technology

As a supervisor, he was in charge of figuring out how the passenger cabins would be put together. He also oversaw the crews that worked on sealing and painting the planes.

“It was an incredible time when that very first 747 rolled out,” he said as he stood in front of the last plane parked outside the factory. “You felt ecstatic as if you were making history. You’re a part of something big, and it’s still big even if this is the final installment.”

The plane’s fuselage measured 225 feet (68.5 meters), and the tail was as tall as a six-story building. The plane’s design included a second deck very important extending from the cockpit back over the first third of the plane, giving it a distinctive hump and inspiring a nickname, the Whale. The 747 was dubbed the “Queen of the Skies” in a more romantic sense.

Some airlines converted the second deck into a first-class cocktail lounge, and even the lower deck featured lounges or even a piano bar on occasion. One decommissioned 747, built-in 1976 for Singapore Airlines, has been converted into a 33-room hotel near Stockholm’s airport.

“It was the first big carrier, the first widebody, so it set a new standard for airlines to figure out what to do with it and how to fill it,” said Guillaume de Syon, an aviation Boeing and mobility expert at Pennsylvania’s Albright College. “It became the essence of mass air travel: You couldn’t fill it with people paying full price, so you need to lower prices to get people onboard. It contributed to the deregulation of air travel that occurred in the late 1970s.”

The first 747 entered service on Pan Am’s New York-London route in 1970, and its timing was terrible, according to Aboulafia. It debuted shortly before the 1973 oil crisis, during a recession that saw Boeing’s employment fall from 100,800 in 1967 to 38,690 in April 1971. The infamous “Boeing bust” was commemorated by a billboard near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that read, “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE — Turn out the lights?”


Delta Was The Last To Use 747 For Flights

The 747-400 series, an updated model, arrived in the late 1980s and had much better timing, coinciding with the Asian economic boom of the early 1990s, according to Aboulafia. He remembered flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific 747 as a twentysomething backpacker in 1991.

“Even people like me could travel to Asia,” Aboulafia explained. “Previously, you had to stop for fuel in Alaska or Hawaii, which was much more expensive. This was a no-brainer — and reasonably priced.”

Delta was the last U.S. airline to use the 747 for passenger flights, which ended in 2017, though some international carriers, including Lufthansa, continue to use it.

Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, recalled flying in a 747 as a young exchange student and said that when he realized he’d be traveling to the West Coast of the United States for the event on Tuesday, there was only one way to go: first-class in the nose of a Lufthansa 747 from Frankfurt to San Francisco. He assured the audience that Lufthansa would continue to fly the 747 for many years.

“We just adore the airplane,” he explained.

Atlas Air ordered four 747-8 freighters early last year, with the final one decorated with an image of Joe Sutter, the engineer who oversaw the original design team for the 747, arriving on Tuesday. Atlas CEO John Dietrich referred to the 747 as the greatest air freighter, owing to its unique ability to load through the nose cone.



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Nokia 4Q profit beats expectations on back of robust demand




HELSINKI, Finland — Nokia, a company that makes equipment for both wireless and fixed networks, reported strong results for the fourth quarter on Thursday. The company cited strong demand for 5G technology and an improved product portfolio.

The company, which is based in Espoo, Finland, made a net profit of 929 million euros ($1 billion) from October to December, which is 27% more than the 731 million euros it made in the same time period the year before.

The net income attributable to shareholders increased from 727 million euros the previous year to 931 million euros this year.

Nokia’s sales increased by 16% to 7.4 billion euros. During the quarter, the company’s performance exceeded analyst expectations.


Another Year Of Growth For Nokia

CEO Pekka Lundmark said that the highlight of the fourth quarter was the “stellar” performance of the company’s network infrastructure business unit, which grew revenue by 14% “with significant operating margin expansion.”

Lundmark said that 2023 would be “another year of growth” for Nokia, but he added, “we are aware of the uncertain economic outlook.”

Nokia reported sales of 24.9 billion euros for the fiscal year 2022, up 12% from the previous year, with a net profit of 2.5 billion euros, up 18% year on year.

“We said at the beginning of 2022 that it would be a year of acceleration, and we delivered,” Lundmark said. “The Nokia team navigated geopolitical, economic, and supply challenges, put our strategy into action, and delivered a strong full-year performance.”


The Latest Generation Of Broadband Technology

Nokia, along with Swedish company Ericsson, Chinese company Huawei, and South Korean company Samsung, is one of the world’s top suppliers of 5G, the latest generation of broadband technology.

Nokia announced earlier this week that it had signed a multi-year license patent agreement with Samsung, allowing the Korean company to use Nokia’s technology in its products in exchange for royalties.

Lundmark told reporters on Thursday that Nokia is almost done leaving the Russian market. This decision was made public after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The Finnish company criticized what Moscow did and said it would move its research and development out of Russia, where it employed a few thousand people. Nokia also announced that it would stop selling its equipment and software in the country.

“We are now at the final meters of implementing the exit program that was published in April,” Lundmark said. “We will not deliver anything there once we have left.”



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